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Producing > consuming

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Idea Journal Weekly 3

March 6 · Issue #233 · View online

We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.


Summary: We’re drowning in information: from news updates and life hacks, to tips and tricks and Twitter threads. But what if consuming all this stuff is preventing us from making meaningful progress?
Producing is more valuable than consuming. 
I realize the irony in writing a newsletter about this—yet another thing to consume! But I hope this Weekly 3 contributes more to the solution than the problem.
(~5 min read)

#1. Listening to yourself and taking action are also hacks
“Feeling overwhelmed? Here are 4,539 tips to overcome anxiety—and the 675th one you’ll have to read to believe!”
Many of us are addicted to hacks: efficiency hacks, presentation hacks, productivity hacks, life hacks. 
The list goes on.
They lure us in with promises of saving time, building better habits, and retiring early by working less.
But author and designer Paul Jarvis writes that many of these so-called hacks are just distractions
As Jarvis puts it: “While small wins can certainly be had from optimizing our lives with the help of tips we read online, how many of us are literally working 4-hour work weeks, while simultaneously learning how to overcome every fear we’ve got, and unlocking ultimate happiness?”
And the problem is worse than that. 
All these hacks aren’t simply distracting—they’re also a crutch.
“These hacks circumvent our own innate intelligence in favour of letting some expert who has a way with words have all the power to lead us. Those words could lead us not only around in circles that seem like progress, but they could potentially lead us to doing something in a way that just doesn’t work for how to process information.”
For example, there’s often more than one way to boost efficiency. 
Maybe you work best at night—despite what experts say about “morning people” being more productive. Or maybe your path to happiness can’t be backed by science. 
Maybe the reason you’re anxious is that your inbox is filled with too many unread life hack listicles.
You already have all the tools you need to start doing what you want to do
For Jarvis the only thing stopping you is your assumption that what you already know isn’t enough.
“So, next time you see an article on life hackery or some list of actions you could be taking if you weren’t reading a list on taking action – ask yourself why you’re searching externally for advice/shortcuts when you could be working on taking action, in your own way, using your own brilliant mind to figure things out.”
#2. Don't let reading and research become counterproductive
Author Steven Pressfield writes that doing research can be so fun and seductive that it keeps you from doing actual work.
Research can become what Pressfield calls “Resistance.” 
Resistance is “our chattering brain, which, if we give it so much as a nanosecond, will start producing excuses, alibis, transparent self-justifications, and a million reasons why we can’t/shouldn’t/won’t do what we know we need to do.”
And doing extensive research, reading, highlighting, underlining, talking about the various documents can turn into Resistance.
You want to work—not prepare to work. 
Pressfield recommends putting yourself on a research diet at the beginning of your project: “You’re allowed to read three books on your subject. No more.”
Let the ideas percolate. Let your subconscious do its work. 
Excessive research can be most seductive at the start, before you’ve done any of the hard work—whether it’s your new startup, the novel you’ve been meaning to write, or the restaurant you want to open.
For Pressfield, the key is to start before you’re ready.
“Remember, our enemy is not lack of preparation; it’s not the difficulty of the project or the state of the marketplace or the emptiness of our bank account. The enemy is Resistance.”
#3. Let's use a broader definition of "art"
In his book Linchpin, author and marketing guru Seth Godin defines art as “a personal gift that changes the recipient.”
And an artist is someone who uses bravery, boldness, and creativity to challenge the status quo and create art. The more people you change, and the more you change them, the more effective your art is.
For Godin, the medium of expression doesn’t matter. 
There are artists who work with oil paints or marble, and artists who work with business models and numbers.
Andy Warhol and Shakespeare are artists. But so is Jill Bolte Taylor, the scientist who keeps us spellbound for eighteen minutes as she tells the story of her near-fatal stroke. And Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, who revolutionized classified advertising.
If you find yourself struggling to realize your own artistic contributions, Godin recommends what he calls the “If only” exercise.
For example, “I could be more creative if only … “
The exercise highlights what’s holding you back, and eliminates excuses.
As Godin notes: “‘If only’ is an obligator, because once you get rid of that item, you’ve got no excuse left, only the obligation.”
Here are a few other examples: 
I could ensure my project has a bigger impact if only … 
I could lead the team more effectively if only … 
I could find the courage to make a difference in my work if only … 
Quote of the week
“Masters manage to blend the two—discipline and a childlike spirit—together into what we shall call the Dimensional Mind … The Conventional Mind is passive—it consumes information and regurgitates it in familiar forms. The Dimensional Mind is active, transforming everything it digests into something new and original, creating instead of consuming.”
- Author Robert Greene in his book Mastery
Idea Journal
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